“Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.”
This was Jesus’ response to the Pharisees on the question of the lawfulness of divorce. A hard heart can symbolize selfishness, bitterness, rebellion, and utter self-will. In the time of Moses, many men treated women as objects that could be sent away and brought back into the marriage as the man wished. The bill of divorce was actually a protection for women. Without the bill of divorce, many women might otherwise be forced to stay in unloving, abusive, and even lethal marriages – yes, deadly relationships. The man would write the certificate releasing the woman from the marriage and allowing her to remarry. Moses also gave the provision of disallowing a man to remarry his former wife if she married a second man (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the Pharisees, strict interpreters of the law, that divorce is not what God intended. He directly refers to the second chapter of Genesis – our first reading today. This creation narrative is one of the most beautiful pieces of scripture we have been given. It shows God’s concern and compassion for man to have a suitable partner by creating various animals and birds and presenting them to man. He even allows man to name them – very Fatherly! YET, God knew man needed something more. So, after putting him in a deep sleep, he takes one of his ribs and makes a woman.
If every one of us men were to close our eyes, and prayerfully imagine that God actually took one of OUR ribs and made our lovely wives –I think we would appreciate them more.
God intended it to be this way “from the beginning of creation”, and Jesus reminds of that today. Whatever love we give to our spouses we give to ourselves. The flipside is the same: whatever harm or “not-love” we show to our spouses we inflict upon ourselves. Why?
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken. That is why a man …clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh”
We spouses must remind ourselves that we have become “one flesh” in our marriages. One flesh with our suitable partner – a creation and gift from God.
Further, hard hearts and the outcomes they produce are mentioned several times in the bible. For example, Moses tells the people to not harden their hearts nor close their hands to those in need. God blessed them abundantly with land that would produce enough so no one would be in need. Yet, people were still left needy (Deuteronomy 15:6-7). Unfortunately, the hard heart is still in effect today. We see the effects in how we view and treat the elderly; the immigrant; people of same sex attraction and orientation; those that are poor, homeless, mentally ill; and most especially the unborn. These are all God’s children that, to some, even I at times have hardened my heart against. Ironically, I see myself or those I love in many of the groups I have mentioned.
I pray God softens my heart when it does harden so I see these Brothers and Sisters as opportunities for my love and compassion. Your opportunities for love and compassion may be different than mine, but the message of Christ is the same. We ALL are the children Jesus wants to embrace. We ALL are the children Jesus wants to bless. Jesus calls us to be His embrace and His blessing for others while we are on this earth “for it is said: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts’” (Hebrews 3:15).
Diaconate Candidate 2024